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Thursday 22 March 2018

Thousands of men seek help after abuse by their wives

Grainne Cunningham

MORE THAN 3,600 contacts were made to Amen, the support organisation for male victims of domestic abuse, last year.

As the voluntary group launched its first annual report yesterday, staff said the number of people contacting the service was "only a fraction" of those affected by this problem.

Amen chairman David Ring highlighted the silence that surrounds male victims of domestic abuse, whether that abuse is psychological, verbal, physical or sexual in nature.

"Most men react by staying silent," he said. "Often this silence is encouraged by the fear of ridicule and the realisation that it is unlikely his partner will be evicted."

Mr Ring said that even when men do report domestic abuse, often they are not believed and are treated as the perpetrators, rather than the victims.

During 2009, 3,644 contacts were made to Amen. Worry- ingly, 1,274 calls to its helpline went unanswered because they called either after 5pm or at weekends, when it was not operational.

More than a quarter (26pc) of callers described incidents of physical abuse; 35pc disclosed details of verbal abuse and 38pc experienced psychological abuse. One per cent revealed details of sexual abuse. Many callers experienced more than one type of ill-treatment.

Amen committee member Declan Keaveney, a retired garda inspector who was himself a victim of domestic abuse, said some of the men he had spoken to were "suffering holy hell" but they still would not reveal their identity or even where they lived.

In some cases, farmers and businessmen feared losing their livelihood if they separated from their wives.

Mr Keaveney said he knew from his own experience, both as a garda and the husband of an alcoholic wife, that the perpetrator of the violence often claimed to be the victim.

"Men are often not believed or not listened to," he said. "They are not considered capable of looking after children."

He knew personally of a number of cases in which the father was only allowed supervised access to his children, even though he had never been violent or abusive to them or hurt them in any way.

Mr Keaveney now has custody of his three children but fought a long battle in the courts to get that.

His problems with his wife, who drank heavily, escalated after he told her that he wanted to separate.

She succeeded in getting a barring order against him and he was only allowed supervised access to their children.

"The hardest thing to deal with is not seeing your children," he said. "Most fathers would do anything just to hug them and hold them, just to hear that little voice.

"Lots of men do not deserve to be near their children but society in Ireland needs to acknowledge that it (abuse) goes on on both sides," he said.

Mr Keaveney, who now works accompanying to court men who are in situations similar to his own, said Amen was the only national point of call for men suffering domestic abuse.

He added that he was sure that men in difficult domestic situations were among the 424 male suicides last year.

"Some men see no other way out and they just take their own lives," he said.

Irish Independent

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